Microsoft's new Windows OS installation UI is actually 10 years old

What you need to know

  • Last week, Microsoft rolled out a new Windows 11 preview build with a brand new default installation UI, something that hasn't been touched in over a decade.
  • However, keen eyed testers noticed that the new interface isn't actually new at all.
  • In fact, it's been shipping as part of Windows for over 10 years, it just wasn't enabled by default until now.

It's been a very long time since Microsoft made any meaningful changes to the Windows installation UI. The last time it was seriously updated was with Windows 8, and before that was Windows Vista. With that in mind, just last week Microsoft unveiled a brand new installation UI for the next Windows OS update, expected to ship later this year.

Microsoft describes the new UI as "refreshing [the] Windows OS Media Setup with a much cleaner and more modern design. All of the same features will continue to be supported in the bare-metal (clean) OS Iinstallation experience, including unattended support, but will now be consistent with the current upgrade and installation experience available for the devices already running the Windows OS."

However, keen eyed testers have noticed that the new interface doesn't really align with Windows 11's design aesthetic. It has a Windows Vista-era basic window theme, and the actual contents of the window look like they are from the Windows 8 era.

Turns out, that's because this UI isn't actually new. You can enable it on early Windows 11 builds from 2021, as was discovered by XenoPanther on X. In fact, you can go as far back as Windows 10 Technical Preview builds from 2014, 10 years ago, which ship with this same UI!

For whatever reason, this "new" UI has been shipping in Windows for a decade, but was never switched on to be the default offline setup experience until now.

Unfortunately, this does mean the new UI isn't consistent with Windows 11 at all. While not a huge deal, it is a little disappointing that after all these years, the best Microsoft could come up with is a UI that was actually completed a decade ago.

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter and Threads

  • Bla1ze
    There's so much old junk floating around in Windows. It's kind of amusing.
  • Arun Topez
    Bla1ze said:
    There's so much old junk floating around in Windows. It's kind of amusing.
    And the fact the new compressed folders window is also in the old junk legacy style instead of developing it in the new format is hilarious too. I'm guessing it's because the settings itself are still in that old legacy format and the new style windows are just a UI on top of it.
  • Arun Topez
    Again with opening the browser instead of an app, even for web apps that are supposed to behave like native apps (regarding the weather lockscreen widget) -_- Least they can do is just show the full size Weather widget when clicked on, which the OS already has access too.
  • xenred
    Not really surprised, when I first saw it it simply looks like a standard windows, actually this is less fancy that previously which was based from Vista and had far more glass looking elements on it.

    I was expecting them to simply reskin that since it was just basically image files that needs updating. It needs to be exactly like the new Windows 11 OOBE screen.

    The current WinRE screen which was first updated since Windows 8 is far more modern and I'm surprised that wasn't still used considering that one isn't anything too fancy but still have nice animation and touch friendly for recovery environment.
  • naddy69
    This is what everything in Windows 7 would look like if you did not have enough graphics horsepower to run Aero Glass.